Politics

Detroit Board of Police Commissioners Candidate Guide: 18 vie for 7 seats

October 12, 2021, 10:57 PM


18 candidates, many of them write-ins, are vying for the board's seven elected seats.

A shakeup may be in store for the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners a year after police-brutality protesters brought new attention to the 11-member body responsible for oversight of the Detroit Police Department.

Three of the board’s seven elected seats are up for grabs Nov. 2 as several commissioners decline to seek second terms. The races feature numerous write-in candidates, and no names will appear on the ballot in Districts 1 and 7. Only District 5 commissioner Willie Burton is running unopposed.

The board has in recent years been roiled by infighting by a minority faction accusing a more prominent group of serving as a rubber stamp for the police department. The changing of the guard — from James Craig to James White — has helped smooth some of that tension.

We asked the candidates facing challengers about their backgrounds, what issues they plan to tackle and why they deserve your vote. Their responses are below.

DISTRICT 1

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Tamara Smith: "I will continue to advocate that the city of Detroit increase officers’ salaries."

Tamara Smith — write-in

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. I am a diverse organizer that provides strategy and field managing experience to local communities. As a motivational speaker and life coach, I am a Detroiter that has overcome the adversities of being a widow with children left to raise on my own. My ambition in wanting to change the community led to my growth and development as an activist. I currently organize around human trafficking and urban crimes.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? To ensure that Detroiters’ rights are not violated, as well as sustaining the integrity of the Detroit Police Department.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? Dealing with an outdated Charter. I would like to introduce Charter amendments to improve the functions of the board and its authority.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? An understaffed, underpaid police force. I will continue to advocate that the city of Detroit increase officers’ salaries to the level of officers in nearby suburbs.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? I would like to reconsider Detroit’s facial recognition for being used for criminal prosecution. It is well documented that facial recognition technology is deeply flawed against people of color and other marginalized groups.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponent(s)? I come with wisdom and walk with great integrity. I am a humanitarian with compassion in my heart for the people. I possess socialization and leadership skills that will continue to mobilize this board in the right direction. I will always remain respectful, and non-confrontational while serving as a Police Commissioner in D-1. DPD and the community I serve can stand in pure confidence that I will fairly reason all situations to the best of my ability. I am a team player and have shown that in the community activism work I’ve contributed to this city.

Joshua Engle — write-in


Joshua Engle: "There are not enough police on the streets."

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Born and raised in Northwest Detroit. I live in Grandmont, where I'm a board member for our community and a part of our neighborhood watch. I'm the owner of a local construction company that I started at age 19. I have been working with our community to improve our safety measures by incorporating street humps in our neighborhood and would like to improve safety measures throughout our city.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? I'm running for police commissioner to make the city safe for our children. I'm interested in being a voice for the people who listens and makes decisions for our community based on their needs.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? The greatest challenges facing the board is that there is no communication between the board and the people. I would like to do monthly virtual meetings to interact with people in our community to find the best way to meet their needs. I would also like to have a vlog so people in the community can have access to what's going on within the board.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? The greatest challenges facing the police department is that there are not enough police on the streets. My goal would be getting the maximum amount of police on the streets to make out city safer.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? I disagree with the use of facial recognition. Based on the information I've read about it, it's an easy way to mistake a person's identify.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponent(s)? I'm a hard worker looking for a fight! I will fight for my city and community!

Bryan Ferguson — write-in

Candidate did not respond to survey request despite reminders

DISTRICT 2

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Linda Bernard: "The city is being hustled." 

Linda Bernard — incumbent

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Linda Bernard is the only African-American attorney to argue and win three precedent-setting cases in the Michigan Supreme Court. She is also the only attorney on the Board of Police Commissioners.

A graduate of Wayne State University’s Monteith Honors College and WSU Law School, Bernard is also the first African-American to earn a Masters of Law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She also holds certifications in legal and business disciplines from several institutions, including The Harvard Business School. Her career spans positions as a Ford Motor Company attorney, City of Detroit managing attorney, and the first administrative hearings officer for the Detroit Administrative Hearings Department, where she handled 25,000 code enforcement cases without reversals or appeals.

As president and CEO of Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, Bernard founded numerous specialty law centers that served HIV-positive persons, seniors, youth and ex-offenders, as well as the largest Mediation, Housing Placement, and Domestic Violence centers in the state.

Bernard has served on more than 25 private and public boards, including the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents, Black Family Development Board, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Roundtable, and the Wayne County Head-Start Policy Board.

District 2 residents elected Bernard in November 2020 in a special election required by the City Charter to complete part of the four-year term won by Conrad Mallet in 2017, who later resigned. 

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? As a public interest lawyer and leader, I have served the community, particularly the low-income community my entire career. Serving on the BOPC allows me to influence policies, procedures and budgetary issues regarding one of the most important government functions/priorities in society: public safety — which must be conducted in a non-racist manner, and that ensures fairness and adherence to Constitutional policing principles.

Detroit’s history, and the nation’s, are atrocious when it comes to the police and the African American community. Many, many African American males, in particular, continue to rot in jails because of police misconduct. 

Every case starts with a police report, and many times reflects the officer’s biases and prejudices. If DPD officers are mandated to do their job fairly and impartially, treating Blacks like whites, and held strictly accountable through policies and procedures adopted by the BOPC, it will enhance police-community relations and positively impact public safety.
 
3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? The greatest challenges facing the Board involve structure, individual board member accountability, and allocation of resources. This is not a glamour, social media “likes,” media “soundbites,” or stepping stone position; although it is routinely viewed and treated as such. 

Meetings are weekly and some weeks I get 200 plus pages of materials that I have to read. One of the greatest challenges is receiving community input on policies important to the community, like search and seizure; use of force, and even neighborhood policing. We don’t have that currently. I would like to put in place regular town hall meetings. on matters of importance to the community and hear their voice; not just that of my colleagues. 

As the new Chair of the Policy Committee, (when the amended bylaws are adopted), I will take the time out of my ridiculously busy schedule as a practicing lawyer to make a substantive difference: one that you can see and that is lasting.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? New recruits are paid during training; receive a “platinum” education and experience, take the oath; pass MCOLES, pledge to work with DPD, and then “resign” 30 days later and go to another department (that doesn’t pay trainees), for more money as a rookie. Address the problem legally, because the city is being hustled.

The second challenge is ending “Driving while Black” (DWB). Retraining officers to not automatically look for reasons to stop a car with Black males and toss the car for drugs and weapons. White men are safe when 4 or 5 of them are cruising. But the only place it’s safe for 5 Black males to be is on a basketball court. There’s something wrong with that picture.

We must address issues resulting from the protests this past summer, and make sure officer misconduct does not reoccur.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they?  I have been on the board for less than one year. I am the only lawyer on the board and continually give free legal services. I have attended every meeting and had one excused absence. 

I disagreed with the board’s decision to give its power over Police Authorized Towing to the Mayor’s Office and City Council because all things police fall within the purview of the BOPC and because towers are small businesses and should have a board they can appeal decisions to which they feel are arbitrary or capricious.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents? My experience in criminal defense and civil litigation; my track record in business and people management and my leadership ability. My lifelong commitment to public justice initiatives. I argued and won three precedent setting public interest cases in the Michigan Supreme Court, and communicate well, orally and in writing. My board experience; management ability (I’ve managed hundreds of people and millions of dollars); my demonstrated leadership abilities.

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Ortagus Jackson: "Retired police officers should not be allowed on the Board of Police Commissioners." 

Ortagus Jackson — write-in

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised on the Northwest side of Detroit. I attended Henry Ford High School.  Unfortunately, I made some bad decisions that ultimately resulted in me being incarcerated. While incarcerated, I realized I need to make some changes in my life. Once I was released, I attended Wayne State University majoring in Mortuary Science. I am an activist and community organizer and a member of the Marcus Garvey Movement and a member of the Live Free Detroit Coalition. I am the CEO of Eyes Wide Open Hope Detroit, a non-profit organization providing services for the homeless community. Currently, I work with various organizations such as Crime Stoppers, leading search and recovery teams to help find missing children. With Ceasefire, a violence prevention group, I do community outreach with young men providing shelter, food, education, and employment opportunities. I have partnered with various organizations, such as ALPACT and Detroit Police Department, in advocating for victims of human and opioid trafficking. I am a president of the Detroit Graduate Chapter of Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc. I am a husband and father of two daughters.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? 
I decided to run for the Board of Police Commissioners because I saw people who considered themselves as influential and concerned citizens not making their presence known in the community.  You rarely or did not see them at crime scenes, volunteering in the community, protesting against rules, policies, ordinances, and laws that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sex, and age.   I never saw or heard of any police commissioner developing conflict resolution strategies that can be effectively used in the community. I have worked throughout the City of Detroit as a volunteer with over 5,000 documented hours of work because I believe in giving back to the community where I reside. It has been said, “If you want to see change, you have to be the change because it starts with you.” Electing Ortagus Jackson will be the CHANGE.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? 
The greatest challenges facing the board is police commissioners not acknowledging that changes need to occur and adapting to changes in a positive and effective way as well as being held accountable for their actions during the changes. I would recommend retired police officers should not be allowed on the Board of Police Commissioners. This is a position that should be for citizens involved in the community that can be a liaison between the community and the police that are willing to work as a team, be respectful, and always professional.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? 
The greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department is having a backlog of cases that have not been reviewed and solved in a timely manner.  I would recommend meetings with the officers involved in the cases and the prosecutor(s) who will be deciding the charges for the suspects in the case. There have been reports of police officers retaliating and harassing citizens when citizens file complaints about them. I would recommend a hotline be created specifically for citizens that feel that are being retaliated against and harassed for making complaints against police officers. These officers would be held accountable for their actions as well as possibly having their pay delayed.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years?  If so, what are they? (If unable to answer, please share your level of familiarity with the board if you’ve watched/ attended meetings, how frequently, etc.)  
I have not really heard of any decisions that are public knowledge by the Board of Police Commissioners.  I have heard there are more disagreements and disrespect among some Commissioners than decision-making.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?  
Voters should elect me over my opponents because I will fight for the citizens of Detroit to hold the police department and officers accountable for their actions when citizens are treated unfairly and justice has not been served. I will fight for policy changes that are in the best interest of the citizens and I will be seen doing work in the community. I will strive to improve the trust between the citizens and the police department. My opponents are not seen in the community working on behalf of the citizens in Detroit. They are not fighting for policy changes that will be in the best interest of the citizens.

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Lavish T. Williams: "I disagreed with the board on Project Green Light... I now feel that it is effective." 

Lavish T. Williams

 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a long-term resident of District 2 where I grew up and currently live. I am a Mumford High School alumnus and a business owner. I am an active leader within my community by way of food distributions, speaking engagements through my mentorship program, partnerships with health care organizations as well as family-friendly events. I am the creator of a podcast called Lavish T. Williams Podcast. This platform creates opportunities for guests to have a voice on topics such as Business, News, Politics and Networking. I have made an impact on the community and have received a host of awards and recognitions which include The Spirit of Detroit Award presented by The Detroit City Council, The Hidden Gem, and The Peoples Krave Award presented by Krave Honors for my humanitarian work. 

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners?

I am running for the Board of Police Commissioners because I want to be the voice of the citizens. Often, when I speak with the community they have expressed to me that their complaints are not heard or followed up with. I would like to be able to provide District 2 residents with responses to some of their questions or even to be the liaison between the citizens and the police department to provide an understanding of things that are happening. 

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? And what would you do about them?

A huge challenge facing the board is a lack of respect amongst the board members and working with members on the board to come up with solutions to problems. They should agree to disagree with one another, and bring the focus back to why they are there. I would maintain my professionalism and present myself on behalf of the citizens who elected me. I would conduct myself as a professional and not get out of order during those meetings.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member?

The Detroit Police Department does not have the resources to adequately train its police officers. Officers need to go through more mental health training that will better equip them. There are too many instances where situations could have been diffused between officers and citizens. Through proper training, officers would be able to follow the techniques to handle them effectively and save more lives. The mental health of the officers is also important and providing ongoing mental health training would aid in their wellbeing. 

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? 

A time I disagreed with the board was on Project Green Light. My opinion of it beforehand was that I was not in favor of it nor the cost that it would take for businesses to partake in this project. After assessing the pros and cons and seeing it in action, I now feel that it is effective and aids in the assistance of officers and the protection of businesses when properly monitored and follow-up has occurred.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

Voters should elect me over my opponent because I fight for the people, I go through the same issues and concerns as the citizens, and I am able to relate and understand their needs. I not only am relatable, but I am a community-driven individual who in my daily life continues to give back.

DISTRICT 3

Cedric Banks

Candidate did not respond to survey request despite reminders

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Stephen Boyle: "The BOPC wasn't keeping tabs on what the department was doing."

Stephen Boyle — write-in

 

1) Tell us a little about yourself. I've spent over 20 years in corporate information technology jobs. Most of those positions involved solving problems and testing for correct results. I have a B.S. in Computer Science from Wayne State University (1979-1983) and an M.S. in Business Information Systems from Walsh College (2000-2005). Throughout my life, I've gone from having a middle-class life to one of poverty and getting to know the issues of those struggling in the streets. I took up photography, and as the Occupy Movement came through Detroit turned to activism on social justice issues in many realms. I was part of a group called Free Detroit No Consent which helped Detroiters understand the issues of Emergency Manager Law, the Consent Agreement and Municipal Bankruptcy. I'm an advocate for public transit and environmental justice — both of which are problematic in Detroit 

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? I'm concerned about the power of authority which goes unchecked and permitted. The BOPC was formed as an oversight body allowing the public to engage with how public safety is managed through the Detroit Police Department. The BOPC is not an extension of the Police Department, nor is it part of the City Council or the Mayor's Office.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? To restore public confidence that the police are working on public safety. I'm concerned about how many officers are coming through the academy who live outside the city (or have lived in the city). We need to have a neighborhood camp for each block club in the district — this is where officers in the precinct become familiar with the issues faced and encounter a forum for dialog with residents.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? I fear that corporate influences coming through the mayor's office and other high office positions aren't allowing officers to understand the places they patrol and the reasons for patrolling. I also feel the digital divide is very palpable in Detroit and requires a more dedicated effort by city government in all branches to overcome. This includes the office I'm to be elected for. This can include providing newsletters, a podcast/local radio show or technologies that can reach everyone. Our libraries need to be open to hosting district meetings within them.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? I've been surprised that police were able to bring facial recognition technology into the department and operate without any policy or procedure documents (approved by BOPC) for over one year. This tells me the BOPC wasn't keeping tabs on what the department was doing. I've attended numerous meetings (over a sporadic time, sometimes weekly or monthly) and watched the chairperson of the board act with prejudice against the voice of fellow commissioners — silencing commissioners rather than conducting the meeting in a parliamentary manner. Virtual meetings through Zoom have empowered this prejudice that wouldn't take place if the meeting was held in person. I've seen commissioners that weren't aware of the details for a topic be steered by another commissioner to "just vote no" on it. I believe every commissioner should know the topic being discussed and the chairperson should make certain of this in advance by asking members if they have reviewed the upcoming meeting agenda and have questions about its content.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents? I feel there's a need for commissioners to hold townhall sessions within their district, where the public gets a chance to ask questions and get answers. This would foster the work to see every neighborhood with a block club offering communications on issues and resources.

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Damian Mitchell: "I hope we can maintain a stronger professional decorum."

Damian Mitchell — write-in

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m Damian Mitchell, born and raised on the Eastside of Detroit. I grew up in the public school system. It wasn’t by far a bad experience. I learned a lot and have seen a lot. It all added to me being the human I am today. I continued education completed an Entrepreneurship program and a mental health training program. My private talent is the violin. I attend Our lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church. I also enjoy spending time with my family.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? I simply want people to have accountable representation. I can’t say that I’ll be and do everything perfectly, but I will be visible enough where I can be held accountable to the voters who decide to elect me. People should know who represents them and how to contact them. Next, I believe oversight of the Department is crucial to Detroit not falling into some of the havoc of cities and other police departments deal with. So if we can continue to be transparent I believe our Department will continue to be one of the best in the world.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? My biggest challenge facing the board I believe is people just going with the flow and not asking questions. I love reporters for the fact that they dig deep to find answers. But I hope that more people in the city are aware that they have representation on the board that they can bring their concerns to. I don’t like arguing in meetings. Debating is appropriate, but arguing helps lose focus of the main purpose of the meeting or issue. So I hope we can maintain a stronger professional decorum. I plan to always understand both sides of a story or issue. Respect both views at the same time expressing my opinions. Hoping that it’s adopted across the board.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? The greatest challenge facing the police department, I would say, is the use of facial recognition technology. It’s a very hot topic item and it’s a divisive subject in some circles. I believe the results from the last few years should help us make clear decisions on the future of that technology in the city. Also the reputation of the police in the neighborhoods. It has deteriorated, and I want to spend whatever time necessary to help repair the image. Also, continuing to look at higher pay raises for officers.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? (If unable to answer, please share your level of familiarity with the board — if you’ve watched/attended meetings, how frequently, etc.) I have attended several different meetings and usually get updates from current Commissioner Willie Burton. There are a few issues that I had with the overwhelming support for facial recognition technology. I haven't enjoyed hearing people get interrupted or blocked from speaking. I am not satisfied with the number of people that attend the meetings. I would like to allow classrooms and residents to continue to see the process and participate in it.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

I feel that voters should consider me over my competitor because the major issue with crime in our District is with younger people. I believe if they see a familiar face helping to create change and policy, then that will be the beginning of young people realizing that they can affect change. Their voice will be heard and that they no longer have to sit on the sideline and watch older adults make the decision, but they can attend meetings and actually have an impact on the process directly.

DISTRICT 4

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Willie E. Bell: "I have 32 years of law enforcement experience with DPD."

Willie Bell — incumbent

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. I have 32 years of law enforcement experience with the Detroit Police Department. I served 2 terms on the Board of Detroit NAACP. I was president of the Guardians Police Association and Chairman of the National Black Association. In 2013, I was elected to the BOPC and re-elected in 2017. In 2018, I was elected to the board of directors for the National Association for the Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. This is my 8th year on the BOPC, and I was elected chair four times. I am a Vietnam and earned honorable discharge. I am a proud product of the Detroit public schools, and I hold a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? In Detroit, we have made progress in all areas of police reform since my election in 2013. As a leader of the BOPC, I have led the initiatives in police reform in the City of Detroit. I want to strengthen our mission in outreach, education, and mass communication of the issues in law enforcement.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? And what would you do about them? The biggest challenge is removing bad police officers from the street and promoting officers with significant discipline records. We must address these issues with the mayor on contracts with the Unions that are very protective of officers in discipline and removing officers from their duty assignments.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? As we know, crime is a major challenge in Detroit, and most cities. There must a strong approach to addressing these street crimes. We need more police officers and must maintain our young officers with better pay and benefits. As a board member, I need to more vocal on these issues and lobby for more police officers with the Council and Mayor.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? In the matter of Sergeant Dewayne Jones who was convicted of beating a mentally ill homeless woman at a Detroit hospital. We failed to suspend this officer without pay, and I am of the opinion that I should have lobbied my fellow commissioners harder for a suspension without pay.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents? I have the experience, leadership, and commitment of oversight of policing in Detroit. I have worked at the local and national levels to hold law enforcement accountable to the people and to build community participation for ensuring the police serve all communities with fairness and equity. 

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Scotty Boman: "I will apply all means permitted by law to prevent the promotion of abusive police officers."

Scotty Boman

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born on the east side, and I have been a Detroit resident for most of my life. Most of the years I have spent in Detroit have been in the region that is now the 4th District. 

I have been an educator for over 30 years and work as a physics and math professor at Wayne County Community College, and as an astronomy and physics instructor at Macomb Community College. I also substitute teach in a few local school districts, including schools in Detroit.

I received my B.S. from Western Michigan University in 1985 and an M.A. in Physics from Western two years later, and an additional graduate degree from Wayne State University in 1999.

Here is a summary of my qualifications:

  • Chairperson of the District 4 Community Advisory Council.
  • Founder of Detroit Residents Advancing Civilian Oversight (DRACO).
  • Chair of the Civilian Oversight Citizens Focus Group (Advising the Detroit Charter Commission on revisions pertaining to civilian oversight of the Detroit Police Department.
  • Member of the Fifth Precinct Police Community Relations Council.
  • Current member and former Vice President of the MEC neighborhood patrol.
  • Member At-Large of the MorningSide Community organization from 2013 to 2019.
  • Member of the 2013 AFT-2000 election committee, and AFT member in two locals.
  • Member of the National Action Network.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? Because Detroiters are entitled to the kind of service the BOPC was designed to be. However, they haven’t been getting that service. I intend to fix this. The Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) is supposed to be a safe place for residents to go to if they have a complaint against police officers, instead of complaining to one of the officer’s colleagues. The Office of the Chief Investigator should investigate those complaints, and the BOPC should impose consequences when officers are in the wrong.

I will compose and work to enact motions that will:

- Prevent the promotion of abusive police officers, who commit violent crimes on duty. This change is needed to prevent something like the promotion of Corporal Dewayne Jones to Sargeant after he had been convicted of assault in the brutal beating of a hospital patient. The board initially failed to suspend him without pay. He got promoted, over BOPC objections, because the DPD contract directly conflicted with the charter. I would have the BOPC revise policy to ensure that the DPD only agree to contracts that comply with the Charter, and restore legal counsel to litigate against such usurpations.

- Drastically improve response times by employing more officers and reducing spending in other areas.

- Amend use-of-force policies to prevent any potentially harmful action unless inaction presents an imminent and credible threat to human life.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them?
Use of contracts, entered into by the DPD, to usurp the BOPC’s Charter-mandated authority. This may seem esoteric, but unless this problem is remedied, civilian oversight in Detroit will be purely symbolic. The most egregious examples include the promotion of a convicted violent criminal inspite of a unanimous vote to the contrary by commissioners. An unelected arbitrar was able to use the contract to directly violate the charter.

The BOPC needs to hire an attorney (which they once had) to challenge and appeal such cases. I would support amending policy so that (as a matter of policy) any member of the DPD negotiating a contract would be prohibited from approving any contract that did not contain the clause that “Nothing herein may be construed as permitting violations of the Detroit Charter.” This is needed to put teeth in the BOPC oversight powers.

A lack of transparency and availability by the Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI). The OCI page on the city website only has a phone number. The complaint form is buried on the BOPC page under a lot of other content. Residents are being turned away by OCI based on the false claim that the BOPC must approve a complaint before it can be investigated.

Efforts by one faction of board members to silence the others. This includes the routine muting of members who express divergent views and the chair disregarding motions when he or she disagrees with them.

If I were elected, the ring leader of this faction would be out of the way and I would only vote to make a member chairperson if he or she had a demonstrable record of supporting fairness and openness in meetings. If elected to be chairperson, I would recognize all in-order motions and grant equal time to all sides of any motion being voted on. I would only mute commissioners under extreme circumstances. 

I would move to amend policy so that commissioners would have access to all DPD controlled video at the same time said video became available to members of the DPD. I would move to use subpoena powers to gain access to videos that are being withheld from the BOPC by the DPD.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member?
- Insufficient staff (police officer shortage). This is at the root of other problems including response time, vigilant traffic control, available officers to “walk the beat,” and timely thorough investigations of criminal complaints. I would prioritize officer salaries over costly technology and material contracts that are either of minimal value or are inappropriate to a community police department. I’m not for large budgets, just more cautious spending that puts people before corporate contractors. Some savings would come from demilitarizing the police and avoiding overcharges (like millions of dollars to improve a gun range), or investing in unreliable software like facial recognition technology. I also have ideas on officer retention which is the next itemized challenge. Other fringe benefits could be paid with available resources. For instance, Land Bank homes could be given to officers who chose to live in Detroit, and they would remain exempt from property taxes as long as they remained residents employed by the DPD.

- Rapid post-graduation turn-over. There has been an ongoing problem with officers receiving free or paid training at the police academy, then deciding to work elsewhere at a later date. Currently, the academy is initially “free,” but officers are later billed a penalty if they don’t stay with the DPD.  Collection under this model is unenforceable. One change would be to have tuition at the academy and offer student loans to cover tuition. So every new officer has a debt. The DPD could then offer an interest-free forbearance on the loans as long as the graduate worked for the DPD. The loan would be forgiven incrementally over a period of years. This model is enforceable since precedence has already be set in the case of teachers who received student loans.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? Yes. There are many. Here are a few:

  • Refusing a revision in use of force training policies. 
  • When Dewayne Jones was facing a suspension vote (over the beating of hospital patient Sheldy Smith), a blue wall of dozens of officers testified that they were trained to do the same thing.  If we are to take them at their words, then clearly they need to be retrained.
  • Voting against a resolution calling on the state of Michigan to lift its ban on the residency requirement.
  • Approving facial recognition technology, and related budget items, over the objections of community members and the advice of experts. 
  • Approving budgets without insisting on the removal (or reprising) of certain wasteful items.
  • Approving 30 seconds as an acceptable wait time before breaking down doors to “serve” a warrant.
  • Participating in the collection of civil forfeiture assets when the property owner has not been convicted of a related crime.
  • Voting to take time off, for weeks in which holidays occurred, that were not enumerated in the Charter.
  • Moving commissioner offices to precincts from the headquarters. Neither setting is appropriate. Commissioner offices should not be in any police building; the CAYMC (or buildings where district manager offices are) would be more appropriate.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents? I will make the BOPC and the OCI relevant to Detroiters. I will steer clear of conflicts of interest and refuse payments from owners of towing companies, especially if I am to subsequently vote on towing matters. I will see that rogue officers who brutalize citizens be removed from duty. I will respect the spirit and letter of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. I won’t organize secret meetings with a faction of the commission. I will support transparent hiring procedures and see that qualifications are designed to meet the needs of the people, rather than the talents of a preselected applicant. I won’t vote on the accountability of former colleagues; I’m not a retired DPD officer. I am a lifelong civilian. I will put resident safety first, and prioritize budgets to attract more qualified officers instead of lining the pockets of contractors. I will follow parliamentary procedure.

DISTRICT 6


Lisa Carter: "I cannot recall a board decision I have disagreed with the past four years."

Lisa Carter — incumbent

1) Tell us a little about yourself. I was born and raised in the City of Detroit. I attended Detroit Public Schools, graduated from Cass Technical High School, Wayne County Community College District and Concordia University. I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I retired from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office at the rank of Lieutenant. I am currently the Program Manager for the Detroit Youth Service Corps, an AmeriCorps program at Wayne State University and the Program Director for the AmeriCorps Urban Safety program. Both programs aim to increase public safety in the City of Detroit through different initiatives. I was elected to the Board of Police Commissioners in 2013 and reelected in 2017. I am married to State Representative Tyrone Carter and we have two sons. 

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? I want to continue to serve my community. I have dedicated my life to public service. I served 27 years with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. After retiring, I continued to serve by joining a program whose goal is to increase public safety. I believe we have made some significant changes with the police department, but we still have work to do. 

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? Unity and the inability to resolve differences. If meetings are chaotic and board members are disrespectful to each other, how can we expect orderly meetings? This continues to be an issue.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? The greatest challenge facing the Detroit Police Department is recruitment and retention of officers. Comparable pay and benefits would help with both recruitment and retention of officers. I will continue to assist the recruiting unit in identifying best practices used by other agencies.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? I cannot recall a board decision I have disagreed with the past four years. I respect the  board's decisions. Even when I do not agree, this is democracy, majority rules.

Why should voters elect you over your opponents? My background and experience makes me the best candidate. I work in the community on a daily basis focusing on improving the quality of life for all residents of Detroit. As for my opponent,  I don’t know much about him.

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Landis Spencer: "I am a fully grassroots-funded candidate who rejects corporate money. My opponent can’t say the same."

Landis Spencer

 

1) Tell us a little about yourself. My name is Landis Spencer. I am a community organizer, who has organized largely around police accountability. I am a member of the Detroit Chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America, which is where I have done the bulk of my organizing work. I graduated from Michigan State University in 2019, with a degree in advertising. I have been working in the advertising field ever since.

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners? Like many members of our community, I felt vulnerable after watching George Floyd’s murder. I, along with community members, took our concerns regarding our own police department to the Board of Police commissioners. Unfortunately, what we found at the BOPC meetings was a total lack of leadership, and an unwillingness to hear the concerns of the community. This lack of leadership and respect for community input is what inspired me to run.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them? The Board currently acts as an extension of the police department, instead of an outside body tasked with civilian oversight. Many of the current members are former police officers. As we know, police are bad at policing themselves. As a result, we have officers being promoted with questionable backgrounds and little scrutiny, citizen complaints going unanswered, no transparency when it comes to the police budget and the consistent approval of new surveillance technology such as facial recognition software, without any consideration to the accuracy or civil rights implications of such technology. If I am elected to the BOPC, I will take citizens' complaints seriously, and fight to investigate and hold accountable any officer that engages in misconduct. I will also fight for budget transparency, and I will scrutinize every public dollar spent within DPD, to make sure that our taxpayer dollars are going towards initiatives that actually keep us safe.

4) What are the greatest challenges facing the Detroit Police Department? What would you do about them as a board member? Detroit’s public safety model isn’t keeping anyone safe. Almost every year, our police budget goes up, and at the same time, we routinely rank as one of the most dangerous cities in America.

At the same time, DPD officers are engaging in misconduct and are not being held accountable. Since 2015, DPD has settled over 19 million dollars in police misconduct claims, there’s currently an officer on DPDs payroll who has 85 citizen complaints against him, and there is no investigation underway regarding the mistreatment and abuse of peaceful BLM protests. We as a city can do better.

We need to ask ourselves: what does real public safety look like? Real public safety is having mental healthcare workers respond to people having a mental healthcare crisis, it’s having the courage to investigate officers who engage in misconduct, and it is ensuring that taxpayer dollars are going to initiatives that actually keep us safe. We must also push our government for more community centers, more jobs, and more afterschool programs for our children. This is what will bring real public safety here in the city of Detroit.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? There are many decisions that I disapprove of. The approval of facial recognition technology after DPD secretly used it for 2 years prior, was an abhorrent decision. Unfortunately, we don’t have to look that far back for bad Board of Police Commissioners’ decisions. Their most recent decision to abdicate their responsibility in choosing new towing contractors to city council, which has former and current members under investigation due to corruption regarding towing contracts, is par and course of what the Board of Police Commissioners has become.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents? I am a fully grassroots-funded candidate who rejects corporate money. My opponent can’t say the same. When I make a vote, you don’t have to worry if I am voting on behalf of a towing company or any other dark money corporate interest group. This makes me fully accountable to my community. District 6 residents can count on me to show up and work every day on their behalf in order to help make Detroit a city that benefits many of its residents, not towing companies, software firms, weapons manufacturers or any other special interest groups.

DISTRICT 7

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Ricardo Moore: "I’m an expert on the inner workings of the Detroit Police Department."

Ricardo Moore — write-in

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

  • Lifelong Detroiter
  • Graduate, Detroit Public Schools
  • B.S., Western Michigan University, Criminal Justice
  • M.S., Central Michigan University, Public Administration
  • Certificate, Eastern Michigan University, Police Staff and Command
  • Former Vice-Chairman, Detroit Board of Police Commissioners
  • Honorably Discharged, U.S. Army, Military Police/Logistics Specialist
  • Former Lieutenant, Detroit Police Department

2) Why are you running for the Board of Police Commissioners?

I had a family tragedy many years ago where my grandfather was murdered in Detroit. The police contacted my mother and stated they caught the killer, then the next day let the killer go on a technicality. It opened old wounds. I don’t want any family to go through pain from any government entity — especially the police.

3) What are the greatest challenges facing the board? What would you do about them?

The greatest challenges facing the board deal with transparency and education. The board should be more committed to rooting out bad members and recruiting good men and women. Education comes from establishing a rapport with the community.

5) Are there any board decisions you’ve disagreed with over the past four years? If so, what are they? 

The board allowed the police department to operate facial recognition without a policy. The board, in conjunction with the mayor and police chief, should have weighed in on this policy earlier.

6) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

I’m an expert on the inner workings of the Detroit Police Department. I have the knowledge, skills and abilities to assure citizens are protected and police are treated fairly by department leadership.

Robert Olive II — write-in

Candidate did not respond to survey request despite reminders

Victoria Shah — write-in

Candidate did not respond to survey request despite reminders



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